Mysterious Arctic Shark Found Thousands of Miles From Home in Caribbean Sea

A mysterious Arctic shark has been found thousands of miles away from its home, in the Caribbean sea.

Researchers discovered the rare, deep water sleeper shark lurking in waters in a coral reef in Belize, according to a study conducted by Florida International University.

While the exact species of sleeper shark remains unknown, researchers believe it's "most likely a Greenland shark, or a hybrid between the Greenland shark and the Pacific sleeper shark," the study said.

This is the first ever record of this type of shark in the western Caribbean region.

Greenland shark
A file photo of a Greenland shark. One was discovered in Belize, far away from its normal home. dottedhippo/Getty

These sharks are understudied and very rarely sighted, meaning scientists know little about them. They are a "near threatened," slow-moving species that can live hundreds of years. They live in deep waters of about 650 feet to 1,640 feet below the surface of the ocean, usually in the colder waters of the north Atlantic and Arctic Oceans, as well as in the seas surrounding Greenland.

PhD candidate Devanshi Kasana at the Florida International University (FIU) Predator Ecology and Conservation lab made the discovery while working with local fisherman to tag tiger sharks, according to a report on Phys.

Kasana then noticed something on the end of one of the lines. It was not a tiger shark however. It was an ancient looking creature, with pale eyes.

"At first, I was sure it was something else, like a six gill shark that are well known from deep waters off coral reefs," Kasana told Phys. "I knew it was something unusual and so did the fishers, who hadn't ever seen anything quite like it in all their combined years of fishing."

The species was determined after Kasana liaised with several Greenland shark experts.

While the discovery was certainly unusual, as Greenland sharks are so understudied, scientists remain open-minded about the species.

The only thing known for certain is that they usually live in the Arctic, however they may migrate. This has not been the only sighting of the species turning up in bizarre places. The slow-moving creatures have been spotted in other areas of the Caribbean and the tropics.

However, this sighting was particularly unusual, as the fishing team were much closer to shore. Other discoveries have typically been made in waters with colder temperatures.

As the waters did reach 9,500 feet, however, it may have been cold enough for this shark to live comfortably, Phys reported.

The finding suggests that this elusive species may be more widespread than researchers originally thought.

"Establishing presence of sleeper sharks in this area is perhaps the first step in protecting sleeper sharks regionally. We know a lot more about their biology and ecology from the poles—higher latitudes—but it will be interesting to see how that changes in the lower latitudes, which continues to remain data sparse," Kasana told Newsweek.

"Furthermore, it can help us understand whether this is a regional population or it is infact individuals moving large distances from poles to equator. This can ultimately help guide management of sleeper sharks in the tropics."

Omar Faux, one of the fisherman that had been out on the expedition, told Phys: "I am always excited to set my deep water line because I know there is stuff down there that we haven't seen yet in Belize, but I never thought I would be catching a Greenland shark."

Update 7/29/22 ET 10:03 a.m: This article was updated to include comments from Devanshi Kasana